Diary Of An Aotearoa Warriors Fan: Stuck In The Kaka

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There are two channels to any reaction for the last two losses for Aotearoa Warriors and you have to be a super enlightened twice-a-day meditator to take up one of those reaction channels. I'm trying to be super enlightened, or more to the point I try and keep things positive and optimistic, however to double down on the crappy trends in losing to Manly Sea Eagles, from the loss to Wests Tigers on such a hearty occasion in Christchurch was kinda embarrassing.

Embarrassing in the sense that Manly came to Christchurch to play with the funk and spirit that should have been flowing through the Warriors. Despite being a Manly home game, the ground was understandably full of Warriors fans and fans who rarely get to see their team play in the flesh, let alone the whole context of recent events and the Warriors crumble as they did?

That's rough and well, embarrassing. Personally, it's embarrassing for me as a preacher of Warriors optimism and someone who believes that a lot has changed at Mt Smart. The easy option is to fall back into the same ol' Warriors channel, letting emotion run the show and I don't want to make that option sound like either channel of reaction is better or worse because I feel both right now.

The harder option though is to trust the process as they say. There is a reason why the sporting elite and those who are successful can tune into that way of thinking and there is also a reason why those who scoff at such ideas, don't achieve anything. Right now, we are unfortunately - or fortunately - in the thick of that process and while it may not feel like there is any positives or possible positive outcome, you can control how you think about it all.

Not that there were any positives to draw upon from this loss to Manly. The Warriors tries came from un-structured footy and were momentary dabbles in delightful footy, the bulk of the attack though from the Warriors was trash. Defence will always be highlighted when conceding 46 points, the bigger problem right now is the bumbling attack in which the Warriors can't establish their attacking structures to even start to think about building into their game plan.

A better way of saying that is that there was no base from which the Warriors offloads can be effective. The Warriors are basically offloading (21 vs Manly's 16) without doing anything around those offloads; not structure to manipulate the defence, then no actual results from the offloads. Other than the two tries they scored.

When Manly shifted wide via structured play, they found vast vacant space and made the Warriors pay. When Manly offloaded, they scored points. They work in tandem and when the Warriors scored points vs Bulldogs and last season, they lived in that structure/funk balance that was and is a nightmare to defend.

This is where things get weird if you don’t have any positive vibes living in you, as I view a lot of the Warriors issues as being a product of the 'short-term pain, long-term gain'. For example, we have a half who is playing his third NRL game in Adam Keighran and it clearly shows. The clunky nature of the shifts and Keighran's kicking game either held the Warriors back in attack, or led to easy exits for Manly via 7-tackle sets or easy catches.

All of which makes life more niggly for Blake Green, who is dealing with more pressure. This puts Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's work in a different context as was at his best vs Manly, even when much of the Warriors attack is 'give it to Roger' and for one bloke to be effective with that responsibility is nothing but nek level.

Who missed the most tackles for the Warriors? Tohu Harris with 6. Anyone with half a footy brain would expect Tohu Harris to miss the most tackles or for this to be repeated too often in the future.

Issac Luke only played 40 minutes and we're not expecting that to be status-quo throughout the season. There has been a notable lack of punch around dummy half since Nathaniel Roache suffered another injury and this isn't exactly Luke's fault as he's being eased back into NRL footy and still had 2runs/20m vs Manly. Roache is really fast though and it's a different threat to Luke or Jazz Tevaga, a threat that could come from the outside backs.

But the outside backs don't do dummy half runs. Tuivasa-Sheck and 1run/11m and Solomone Kata had 1run/12m, which shows how effective dummy half runs from these lads can be. Especially when we also consider that opposition teams now target Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu'a with multiple defenders to limit their influence, which can be overcome by getting them into dummy half.

Manly had 5 dummy half runs from their backline. Tevaga had 2runs/5m from dummy half, as he essentially played 40mins at hooker. This combines for a lack of any threat around dummy half and that's the spark that initiates so much of the Warriors attack, when they've been potent in the past 12 months. Again, this isn't Luke's fault and is more a case of sussing out the key elements of the style that works, then integrating that with more minutes from Luke and perhaps Roache.

The Warriors had an average set distance of 50.6m, compared to Manly's 46.6m. They also averaged 3.09s play-the-balls to Manly's 3.35s and while I think the simplicity of running with tangible energy (running fuckin' hard) was absent vs Manly other than Bunty Afoa, the Warriors didn't have any issues in the grunt work.

Nuances of how the Warriors are trying to figure out their schemes, that's the issue right now. This is defensively as well, given that Manly broke down the Warriors defence initially via their attacking structure and offloads, which points to a Warriors team who are having the same growing pains defensively as they are in attack. Manly were the team to demoralize the Warriors and as such, those defensive scheme issues soon became effort issues and that's where the points pile up.

The poo is too big to flush the dunny and move on right now. That's all good to say after one game, two games means that times and are tough and we're in the nitty-gritty of trying to figure out how this Warriors group finds their best footy. Be prepared to ride the wave folks.

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Peace and love 27.